January 4, 2013

Hockey East Journal: Ferriero's breakout sparks Huskies

By Andrew Merritt

Northeastern's Benn Ferriero quintupled his season goal total last Saturday. (Photo: Jim Rosvold/USCHO)

There are some guys you just need to show up.

For Northeastern, Cody Ferriero is one of those guys. Over the last two years, in games where Ferriero has at least a point, the Huskies have gone 9-1-2. That includes a 2011-12 season that was marred by discipline problems at the start and an injury at the end, limiting him to just 17 games, in which he posted 9-6—15 totals.

Call him a talisman, call him a leader, but it’s not a coincidence that the Huskies are in better shape when Ferriero’s in the lineup. Yet it hasn’t always been that way. The Essex, Mass., native and Governor’s Academy product, whose brother Benn was a four-year standout at Boston College, failed to replicate big brother’s effect as a freshman. Cody Ferriero played in 34 of Northeastern’s 38 games that year, but scored just four goals and three assists. A San Jose draftee like his older brother, he started to show some more potential last year as a sophomore, but only after sitting out the first five games following a team-imposed suspension.

Once he returned to the ice, he was a nearly point-per-game player (after an initial slump), and had three multiple-point games, including a hat trick against Vermont on Jan. 27, 2012. But a knee injury abbreviated the already shortened season for Ferriero, wo missed the last 10 games.

This year, he’s got something to prove, and on Saturday night, Dec. 29, at Harvard, he just may have proved it. After the Huskies surrendered an early goal to the Crimson, Ferriero scored three power play goals in less than nine minutes – the first Husky ever to score three straight power play goals in a single period. Then in the third, Ferriero added his fourth goal of the night, matching a total not hit by a Northeastern player since Dave Poile on Jan. 24, 1970. It pushed the Huskies to a 5-1 win over their fellow Beanpot participants,

“As a team, we said coming out of the break that we needed to get a kick-start,” Ferriero said. “I’ve felt a little snakebitten lately, but you’ve just got to keep shooting the puck and eventually you’ll get those bounces.”

The four goals certainly altered the trajectory of Ferriero’s season so far. Going into the Harvard game, he had scored just once, at Providence in a loss, though he did have five assists. But walking out of Bright Hockey Center into Saturday night’s snowstorm, Ferriero suddenly owned a 5-5—10 score line, which moved him up 39 spots on the Hockey East scorers list.

“We need Cody Ferriero to score. He’s a streaky scorer, he did that last year. He had some good looks, that was the nice part, that he had some good looks,” NU coach Jim Madigan said.

Remarkably enough, Ferriero also matched his four goals with just as many penalties – one each for high-sticking, hooking, roughing and kneeing. But that, Madigan said, is just as much a part of Ferriero’s game as the scorer’s instinct that was suddenly on display Saturday.

“The penalties, he’s going to get penalties. We want him playing strong on the puck, an aggressive style, and he’s going to have to pick his areas a little bit better, but I don’t want to take away from his aggressiveness,” Madigan said. “I want him to be a little more disciplined at times, but I still want him to play an aggressive style. That’s what makes him effective.”

It’s also what makes Ferriero a perfect fit for the Huskies, who play a gritty game, often treading right on (or well over) the edge.

“Guys like to compete, and when we’re on the edge, everyone works hard, everyone does his job,” said freshman Kevin Roy, who skated on Ferriero’s line and assisted on all five NU goals to become the first Husky with five points in a game since 2005.

The lines themselves represented a return to normalcy as well. The Huskies opened the year with Ferriero on the second line with Roy and Braden Pimm, but injuries have forced frequent lineup shuffles, and those three have only played together six times this season – same goes for the combination of Ludwig Karlsson-Garrett Vermeersch-Vinny Saponari, which was Northeastern’s best unit last year.

When Roy, Pimm and Ferriero are together, the Huskies are 3-3-0, and the trio has produced nine goals and 11 assists. Of course, four of those nine goals came on one pretty magical night for Ferriero, whose season, it seems, has finally begun.

Player of the Week

Branden Gracel, junior, UMass

While Ferriero’s single-game output was eye-opening, Gracel scored a goal and three assists to lead the Minutemen to the Ledyard Bank Classic title, giving him nine points (three goals) in six December games, which earned him the league’s player of the month award.

Game of the Week

Merrimack at Vermont, Saturday, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports)

Just one point separates fifth-place Vermont from the sixth-place Warriors, and the only league matchup of the weekend should shed some light on the playoff race that’s about to pick up steam.

Power Rankings

  1. Boston College (12-3-1, 9-2-1 HEA) – No. 3 BC finally earned coach Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) his record-breaking 925th victory on Dec. 29, but the next day’s 8-1 loss to Minnesota wiped away a lot of the good feeling from the milestone win … Steven Whitney (Reading, Mass.) scored in both games, picking up his 100th and 101st career point.

  2. New Hampshire (12-3-2, 8-2-1 HEA) – The No. 2 Wildcats fell to No. 8 Dartmouth in the opener of the Ledyard Bank Classic, but came back from that loss to the hosts to beat Bemidji State 3-2 in overtime, pushing their record against the WCHA to 4-0-1 this year.

  3. Boston University (10-6-0, 8-4-0 HEA) – One of the few teams not involved in a holiday tournament last weekend, the No. 9 Terriers saw their 125-game streak without being shut out come to an end in a 5-0 blanking against Denver …  the loss was also the first for Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) as a newly-minted assistant captain.

  4. Providence (7-6-3, 5-4-2 HEA) – The Friars are among the only Americans who are finding Team USA’s streak to Saturday’s gold medal game in the World Junior Championships a little bittersweet, as it means freshman goalie Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine) remains in Russia while PC travels to Minnesota State this weekend.

  5. UMass-Lowell (7-7-1, 3-6-1 HEA) – It’s three straight wins for the River Hawks after a 3-2 victory over Bentley on Dec. 30 – a stretch during which UML is outscoring opponents 10-2 – but they’re still a week away from being able to make any hay in the league standings, with a pair of games at Clarkson this weekend.

  6. Vermont (6-8-4, 3-5-4 HEA) – UVM swept both of its games as host of the Catamount Cup, with sophomore Jacob Fallon earning tournament MVP honors after scoring a goal and an assist in Sunday’s championship clincher, which also gave the Catamounts their fourth straight game without a loss.

  7. Merrimack (6-8-4, 4-4-1 HEA) – The Warriors came away from the Catamount Cup empty-handed, with a tie to Princeton and a loss to Union, finally ending their woeful non-conference run for the year. Merrimack’s 2-4-3 nonleague record is its worst since 2006-07.

  8. Northeastern (6-9-1, 3-8-1 HEA) – Saturday’s win certainly came at the right time for the Huskies, who were 1-5 in their previous six games, and it was the program’s first victory at Harvard since Jan. 12, 1978, snapping a six-game losing streak in Cambridge.

  9. UMass (7-9-2, 4-6-1 HEA) – UMass earned their Ledyard Bank Classic title the hard way, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to Bemidji State in the first round and a 2-1 deficit to host Dartmouth in the championship.

  10. Maine (4-11-2, 1-7-2 HEA) – It’s only appropriate that the Black Bears finally found some sunshine in a trip to Florida, where they won the Florida College Classic to join Vermont and UMass as Hockey East holiday tournament champions … Maine is the first team in the tournament’s 13-year history to win it two years in a row.

Andrew Merritt can be reached at MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @A_Merritt.